Flat would be the best way to describe the Pittsburgh Panthers offense for most of the game as the team opened their exhibition schedule with a 69-54 win against IUP.
If the Panthers were trying to shoot low, they should have left their efforts on the golf course as they scored just 21 points in the first half.
Mathis Keita, once a Gonzaga Bulldog, led all scorers with 17 points, while Tray Woodall scored 16 points. Dante Taylor had nine points and 10 rebounds coming off of the bench. The Panthers abysmal first-half performance included shooting 36 percent and a dreadful 25 percent from the free throw line.
No matter who head coach Jamie Dixon put out in that first half, there were not really any positives to draw.
Taylor had seven rebounds in the first half, as he competes with Talib Zanna for the starting power forward position. Point guard Woodall led all scorers with seven points in the first half.
The Panthers came out of the gates stronger in the second half. Power forward Talib Zanna converted a shot while being fouled and then made the free throw.
The Panthers also had a rough time at the line to start the half; however, Lamar Patterson drilled a couple of free throws and things improved. As the half wore on, the Panthers started to pull away. The exclamation point came when J.J. Moore converted a two and upon being fouled calmly sank the free throw coming out of the media timeout. The team calmed down after this play and continued their consistent defense, frustrating IUP and maintaining their lead.
IUP attempted to come back and guard Keita drilled a couple of three point shots, however the Panthers consistently had answers and maintained a healthy lead.
As the game drew to a conclusion, the Panthers were able to bolster their lead and bring home a win.
The Panthers finished the night shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 51.7 percent from the free throw line and had 30 rebounds. The Panthers will next face Hawaii-Hilo on Friday Nov. 2.
Pitt media relations contact Greg Hotchkiss alerted to the press before the game that Malcolm Gilbert would not dress for the game. The plan is for him to redshirt.
Also Chris Jones is sick and has lost 15 pounds during his bout with an undisclosed illness.
Tray Woodall on his overall impressions of the game: “It’s the first game and we’re still building chemistry. We’re going to build that chemistry and you’ll see more later on.”
James Robinson on being out on the floor with Woodall: “It’s a good comfort factor to know Tray’s out there with me. He’s a senior and he knows the battle…we play off of each other.”
IUP head coach Joe Lombardi, a former Panthers coach on Pitt’s depth: “It’s like Noah’s Ark, they’ve got two of each. It’s going to take a while to find out who blends well together.”
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon:
“We’ve had 11 practices and we looked like it.”
On the competition for the two guard positions after saying it would come down to who the best defenders were: “James [Robinson] and Tray [Woodall] are probably the best two. It’s open though.”
On the play of Dante Taylor: “I told the guys he was the best player on the floor.”
Final word: A media member asked Tray Woodall if the team valued these exhibition games more because of last season. His response: “I forgot what happened last season.”